Saskatoon Tribal Council Temporary Emergency Wellness Centre Approved
Saskatoon, SK – In response to the surge of homelessness in our city, compounded by COVID-19 and the increasing cold weather, the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) and several organizations partnered in a proposal to establish a Temporary Emergency Wellness Centre – with long-term potential to help Saskatoon’s homeless population. Today, this proposal has become a reality; we now can support many homeless people. We are aiming for a Monday opening.
“We needed to move fast with the colder weather approaching; it is a matter of life and death for our people on the streets. We are grateful to all our partners who made this Wellness Centre a reality, especially the City who expedited the approval process,” says Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. “This Wellness Centre will not only help our homeless off the streets, but it will also provide them with mental, addiction, and housing services. They will be treated with dignity.”
After weeks of researching properties and consulting realtors, the City of Saskatoon helped STC locate a facility in downtown Saskatoon that will accommodate a plan to help the city’s homeless population off the streets this winter.
The City offered a 9,200 square foot space at 145 First Avenue North; the building itself is a former sub-office of the Saskatoon Police Service. The Wellness Centre will operate temporarily out of this space for the next four months.
The Wellness Centre will mitigate the homelessness crisis in Saskatoon. It will be staffed 24/7 and offer mental health, addictions, and housing services.
Key information about the Wellness Centre:
- We are aiming to open Monday, December 13, 2021 (pending staff training and facility set-up).
- The Standing Policy Committee for Planning, Development and Community Services met on December 7, 2021and voted unanimously in favour of the Wellness Centre.
- City Council expedited the process by holding a special emergency meeting on December 9, 2021, and voted unanimously to approve the Wellness Centre.
- The starting point is helping 50 people off the streets.
- The Saskatoon Police Service has a security and operations plan for the area around the Wellness Centre.
- The Fire Department is making sure the building is safe for people to live in.
- There will be 24-hour security at the Wellness Centre.
- Drugs and alcohol will not be allowed inside the Wellness Centre.
- Emphasis is on wrap-around supports:
- Mental health and addictions counselling will be available.
- Life-skills opportunities will be integrated into the housing plan.
- There is a lease option for up to five months – terms are to December 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022, with the option to extend to April 30, weather-dependent.
Strict COVID-19 testing and safety procedures will be in place, including isolation if people test positive.
All these efforts are being made to support better those facing homelessness in our community to obtain long-term and secure housing options.
Support from the Community
We continue reaching out to local organizations for the ongoing support of this project.
We currently need funding and donations such as food and clothing.
There has been overwhelming support from the Saskatoon community and beyond. STC and our partners have received several emails, phone calls, offers to help, and donations over the past month. We want to highlight this support. You can view the community support on our website.
Proposal Partner Contributions
Many partners are uniting to turn this proposal into a reality, and we want to recognize their contributions to the Temporary Emergency Wellness Centre.
City/Fire Department – Saskatoon
- The Standing Policy Committee for Planning, Development and Community Services will consider a lease agreement that would allow the Saskatoon Tribal Council to operate a temporary emergency wellness centre for $10.00 over five months at a downtown location.
- The temporary emergency shelter concept was developed as a safe alternative to homeless encampments that have been present in the community.
- The Fire Department is making sure the building is safe for people to live in.
- The report will be presented for approval to the Standing Policy Committee for Planning, Development and Community Services on December 7, 2021; this must be done because the proposed lease agreement is below fair market value without a public offering.
- The City is offering a 9,200 square foot space at 145 First Avenue North for the use of an emergency shelter/wellness centre for the next five months with a proposed rental of $10.00, subject to City Council approval on December 20th.
- City Council has already approved the necessary zoning requirements allowing for emergency shelters to operate.
Hoits Contracting Ltd and Aquifer Distribution Group
- We are providing in-kind construction services and materials to help facilitate the needs of the shelter.
Possibilities Recovery Center
Possibilities Recovery Center will provide mental health counsellors to meet guests
where they are at and offer knowledge and assistance to improve their quality of
life. Programs will run daily every hour from afternoon to evening.
All programs are voluntary but will teach:
- Basic Hygiene and life skills – personal hygiene skills, grocery shopping, meal planning etc.
- Basic Finances – connecting them with Social Services, how to set up and use a bank account, making and keeping a budget,
- Tenancy Rights – Where to look for housing, tenant’s rights and landlord’s rights.
- Communication Skills – Effective ways to communicate to succeed. Why anger and aggression work against you.
- How to use the public transit system
- Public Health Services – Collaborate with Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and provide referrals to the services available in our community.
- Mental Wellness programs – Understanding anxiety, depression, mental illnesses and where to go for support.
- Evidence-Based Addiction Knowledge – What is addiction? Why do we become addicted? What are triggers and cravings? What supports are available.
- 12 Step Meetings and talking circles – Using the classic 12 step model and the Wellbriety model to incorporate Indigenous culture into the 12 steps.
- The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol – teaching the short and long-term effects of drugs and alcohol.
- Group-specific needs – i.e.) 2SLGBTQ support, parenting skills, etc.
Sanctum Care Group Inc.
- Trauma and violence informed care
- Signs and symptoms of overdose
- Sharps Training
- Naloxone Training
- Observing and monitoring persons living with complex health and social concerns
- AED overview and training
- Donation of AED (Automated external defibrillator)
Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA)
The SHA will offer the regular range of services that we normally do in the community, including:
- Public health inspection
- Primary health assessments
- Mental health and addictions by referral
- Home care services
- Routine immunization services as appropriate
- Covid-19 supports for routine testing and immunization as needed
Saskatoon Police Service (SPS)
- The Saskatoon Police Service will provide input into the public safety services, which will be necessary and assess and respond as needed.
- We will build the needs of this program into our Downtown Safety Plan and will be working with the Saskatoon Tribal Council on a security plan for the area.
- Uniform and Alternative Response Officers will provide regular patrols.
Sawêyihtotân Outreach Team
- Assisting in facility and operations setup.
- They are establishing procedures based on best practices from the Miskasowin Youth Shelter.
- After-hours support for transportation and transitioning of our Wahkohmakan (relative) and our Wahkohmakanak (relatives).
“Due to COVID, addictions and mental health are worse, and homelessness is high. We see mainly Indigenous peoples on the streets. This is evidence of the lasting effects of residential schools and systemic racism leading to intergenerational trauma, addictions, and mental health issues. We need a long-term strategy, an investment to keep people safe and healthy. STC will step up and do as much as we can to help take care of our people. We are in a crisis mode. It’s time to do the right thing. We want this initiative to be Indigenous-led for Indigenous People.” — Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand
“Ensuring adequate and safe shelter space is available for winter is an urgent issue. When there was nothing adequate or suitable on the commercial market the City was able to offer one of its properties. The Fire Department is making sure the building is safe for people to live in – that there are appropriate spaces for sleeping and they are protected with proper alarms and systems.” — Fire Chief Morgan Hackl
“We are dedicated to the community and helping those who don’t have the means to help themselves. Construction with compassion.” – Hoits Contracting Ltd. Owner Clinton Poitras and Owner Aquifer Distribution Group Glenn Wig
“It’s rewarding to see someone overcome mental health challenges. We’ve been gifted this knowledge to share without discrimination, and our duty is to find a way to make that possible.” — Possibilities Recovery Business Manager Tanner Perratt
“Sanctum Care Group believes in the dignified care of all persons and the need to support the most vulnerable in our community. Housing is a basic human right, and we are proud to support the important work of STC as they endeavour to support those who are experiencing homelessness in this greatest time of need.” — Sanctum Executive Director Katelyn Roberts
“The SHA would like to express our gratitude and support for this initiative that Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) is taking to address the homelessness challenges in Saskatoon, particularly as the cold weather is upon us. Having access to an additional
50 shelter beds, supporting a wellness model will not only help get people get out of the cold, but will potentially link them to other appropriate health and social services to better support their needs. This can also help to reduce some of the pressures our emergency departments struggle with on a daily basis as many use the ED as shelter in times of challenge.” – Director Primary Health Care Saskatoon Cristina Ugolini
“In light of the increasing volume of calls regarding people in crisis and experiencing homelessness, The Saskatoon Police Service is pleased to see this joint effort by the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the City of Saskatoon. We are supportive of any plan to offer an alternative to those who may not have had safe shelter otherwise.” — Superintendent Cam McBride
About the Saskatoon Tribal Council
Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) improves the quality of life of First Nations through mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations and industry. Acting as a representative body for seven First Nations, STC delivers programs and services to those living in member communities and Saskatoon. Opportunities for improved living are accessed through programs and services in health, safety, economic development, education, and financial investments in the broader community. STC operates on the values of FIRE: Fairness, Integrity, Respect, and Excellence. More information is available at www.sktc.sk.ca.
For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Justin Waldrop, BAdmin, CPR, BA, CDMP (he/him/his) Corporate Communications Specialist Saskatoon Tribal Council
P: 306-956-6137 | C: 306-381-9873
E: [email protected]